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    Copyright 2008-2018Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.

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How to fly with a pie

Happy Chanukah–tonight was the first night–and as per usual, a belated Happy Thanksgiving too. I hope everyone ate nice, had fun, enjoyed and helped do the dishes wherever you gathered.

Now that it’s over, I have a few more additions to the list of things I’ve learned–good or bad–about How To Travel With Food ™. Because my in-laws, who usually host Thanksgiving, are traveling in Africa (!!!–think elephants coming up to their cabin porch), my ex-brother-in-law invited all the rest of us to join him for the weekend instead. In Sonoma. At what turned out to be not a cabin with or without elephants, but a luxurious private residence he’d booked for the group as a vacation rental. And it was out and out marvelous. If a little weird and unsettling in its own way.

Sonoma-Kenwood.jpg

When we were still deciding how to reach Sonoma from Pasadena, we realized with dismay that it’s about 10 or 11 hours by car at the best of times, and Thanksgiving week is not the best of times. When we lived on the east coast, a trip like that would have us thinking airplane automatically, but out here we usually just suffer. My niece and her boyfriend drove up from San Luis Obispo, usually 4 hours north of us, and it took them 9 hours instead of 5 or 6. So I was really grateful to my husband for finding affordable plane tickets for an hour’s flight into Oakland. So far, so good, and it took a lot of the strain out.

But all those airline rules. And we were the ones bringing pumpkin pie. In carry-on. My ex-BIL offered to pick up a couple of big stalks of brussels sprouts for me up there (I don’t think we even had any more at down here by this time; Trader Joe’s was out of them by weeks) as well as a green cabbage for Greek cabbage salad. These are big heavy scary-looking items you just don’t want to schlep on a plane unless you’re auditioning for the live version of Shrek. As the shopping list got longer, I decided to just bake the pies at home, cool them, freeze them as far as possible, and take them in a stiff box with some ice packs stuffed in the corners and hope for the best.

Continue reading

More things to fry in olive oil

Thanksgiving has barely ended and Hanukkah is already upon us–which means more food! This time with olive oil to commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a war in which the Assyrian Greeks trashed and piggified it in hopes that we’d be so abashed we’d immediately convert and become a convenient tribute-paying way station for their marches around the edge of the Mediterranean to Carthage.

I know the official story credits Judah Maccabee, but really, it happened like this:

The Assyrian Greeks thought we’d be too frightened to complain when they marched through Israel, taking what they wanted and getting their muddy footprints everywhere. They hadn’t yet heard of chutzpah. They also hadn’t reckoned with a little-known secret force:  Jewish grandmothers. These bubbies could out-argue G-d. Weekly. And the lectures? …

“Carthage, schmarthage!” the grandma said. “Wipe your feet already, what are you, a Hannibal?”

Then she hefted a mighty frying pan at the intruders and that’s all she wrote.

So the real hero of this geschichte is clearly not Judah Maccabee, aka “The Hammer” — but Judith ha-Machvat, or “Judy with the Frying Pan Handy” — a woman who could really scare off the goniffs! And so in her memory, we fry up all kinds of goodies for Hanukkah and none of the calories stick to our hips at all. Really. It’s a miracle.

So…enough bubbe meises. Back to the present day.

Last night I made latkes without benefit of a food processor–after a slight kitchen drawer reorganization last spring, I forgot where I put the shredder disk. But for a smallish batch for the three of us–only two spuds and half an onion–it’s not so difficult to grate them by hand, as long as you use a fork to hold the stubs (of the potatoes, not your fingers, I hope) to avoid getting extra “proteins” in there…

The Obligatory Latkes (very basic, but tasty in a good way)–about 12 or so 2-3-inch latkes, enough for 3 people for supper, so scale up as needed

Carbs: 2 big potatoes weighed 480 g total on the food scale before peeling. An estimated 1/6th of the weight of nonsweet potatoes is carb–so about 80 g carb total for this recipe. A 4-latke serving would be about 20-25 g carb.

  • 2 big russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, shredded on large holes of grater/food processor blade
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated on fine holes into the same bowl OR chopped finely in the food processor BEFORE changing to the shredder blade and doing the potatoes on top of the onion
  • 2 eggs
  • spoonful of olive oil
  • 1-2 t. flour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of baking soda (which I completely forgot last night, so it’s optional)
  • olive or vegetable oil for frying

Grate the potatoes and onions by hand or food processor into a big bowl. The grated onions will help prevent discoloration in the potatoes. Take handfuls of the mixture and squeeze them nearly dry, and pour off most or all of the liquid that collected in the bottom of the bowl. Return the potatoes to the bowl, add the eggs, spoonful of olive oil, flour, salt and baking soda and stir until evenly mixed.

Heat several tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pan until shimmering and dollop soupspoonfuls of the latke mixture in, flattening them as they start to fry. Swirl the pan a little to get the oil touching each latke and maybe keep them from sticking to the pan. Wait until you see brown edges at the bottom of the latkes, then flip and fry the other side, swirling the oil a little or adding another spoonful in droplets where the pan seems to need it. You want these really brown and crisp on the outside, not pale yellow.

Drain on napkins or paper towels on a plate, and at the end, if no one’s snatched them as they cooked, you might want to reheat them all together in the pan or microwave them on the plate for half a minute on HIGH. Serve with applesauce and sour cream or labaneh or plain yogurt.

–  –  –  –  –

That’s the only recipe I’m giving here with set quantities–latkes are more like pancakes, everything below is like a stir-fry.

Non-Latke Options

Even with mechanical assistance in the form of a food processor, I’m a one-latke-night-per-year-is-enough kind of person. I want something other than potatoes if I’m going to be frying stuff in more than a spoonful or so of olive oil. Therefore I look for other maybe less starchy and more flavorful (one can always hope) things to fry:

Pre-nuked (microwaved) eggplant slices, fried in a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil after heating a little garlic and curry powder, maybe a dab of z’khug, for a few seconds first. Onion and red bell pepper are good in this mix too.

Marinated artichoke hearts, perhaps drained slightly and shaken in a plastic bag with a spoonful or so of flour or almond meal or chickpea flour and a little grated cheese and/or some oregano or thyme–no extra salt needed

Pre-nuked cauliflower, breaded as for the artichoke hearts

or–pre-nuked cauliflower, stirfried in a spoonful or so of olive oil with a dab of z’khug if you like things hot, with red bell peppers, onions, and another Continue reading

Putting Pie Crust on a Diet

From a recent LA Times special on savory pies comes a classic calorie-bomb–only, it’s not even the pie. It’s the pie dough itself:

Basic savory pie dough No. 2 (cream cheese)

Servings: 1 double-crust (9-inch) pie or 6 individual hand pies

  • 1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 2/3 cups (11 1/2 ounces) flour

Each of 6 servings: 638 calories; 9 grams protein; 44 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 48 grams fat; 29 grams saturated fat; 137 mg. cholesterol; 1 gram sugar; 518 mg. sodium.

Now come on. 638 calories before you ever get to the filling? Who wants to eat that much pie dough at a time, especially one so rich? OK, don’t answer that, but really. Gag.

Except for the extra cream and the teaspoon of added salt (and why do you even need those with a cream cheese dough anyway?) this is really just a classic rugelach dough–you mix the fats together and then stir in the flour a little at a time by hand. Only, rugelach dough is meant to be rolled out as thin as physically possible–1/16 inch thick or even less–before spreading with jam and nuts and chocolate and cinnamon and so on and rolling it up into a crescent shape. And a good thing too, because cream cheese doughs are notoriously rich. More dough per rugelach and you’d soon feel like you’d eaten an airline Danish–it would sit like lead in your stomach for hours.

I compared the recipe above with the one in my much-used spiral-bound 1984 edition of Joan Nathan’s The Jewish Holiday Kitchen (thank you, Hadassah rummage sale!) It was probably the one cookbook that influenced me most as a college student, and I still use it for the classics, especially baked things like rugelach and hamantaschen that I can’t just wing (note–her cookie-style hamantaschen recipe is the best I’ve ever tasted, a far cry from the usual chalky white horrors on the Purim carnival bake sale table).

Based on Nathan’s rugelach recipe, which is the same recipe everyone everywhere seems to use, the quantities in the LA Times recipe above should make something like 40 rugelach, so figure about 15-20 realistic servings, not six. The cooks at the LA Times must be rolling the dough out the standard 3/8 inch thick for their pies, but it seems like a complete waste of this dough’s particular talents. Continue reading

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